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Summer of Love: Photographs by Nathan Farb

January 25 - March 31, 2007


A Photographer's Journal

Lygia blowing bubbles

THE 1960s BROUGHT FORTH A SEA CHANGE IN AMERICAN CULTURE, which permeated and persisted in the nation's ethos until the culture wars of the past two decades, when conservatives attempted to roll back social liberalism and anti-establishment attitudes. In the summer of 1967, "the summer of love," counterculture evolved simultaneously in two places. One was the Haight-Ashbury district in San Francisco, and the other was in the East Village in New York City. Some would argue that the West Coast movement was stronger and more important, but because much of the media was centered in New York, the message of counterculture was spread by a band of participants who lived, worked, or otherwise associated themselves in the neighborhood around Tompkins Square Park.

Photograph of Nathan by Robert Weiner

As a young photographer, I went to the Lower East Side in 1965 and for three years documented activities and events in the streets, in people's apartments, and in the park. Through friends, I was able to meet and photograph Diane Arbus, Jim Morrison, Lou Reed, Andy Warhol and Viva, as well as other hippies, musicians and performers, social activists and protesters.

In 1967, when the drug-related murders of Linda Fitzpatrick and James "Groovy" Hutchinson ended the year-long party in the park, my pictures of Groovy, taken just hours before he was murdered, were seen on the front page of the Daily News, on television, and in magazines throughout the world.

Man on stage

I was too young to be a beatnik — they were mostly gone by the time I got there — and too old to be a hippie. I was, however, just the right age for the emerging New Journalism, and I enthusiastically embraced the idea of being both observer and participant.

In retrospect, I can see that I was trying to do several things simultaneously. I wanted to learn how to use a camera and develop film. I was also searching for my own roots and wanted to preserve on film what was left of the Lower East Side as a portal to America for waves of European immigrants. My mother's family moved directly to Arkansas in the 19th century and as such, I had almost no connection to Jewish immigrant culture. My father, an immigrant who had performed with Paul Muni on the Yiddish stage, became a rabbi and died before I was born. Years later, with camera in hand, I must have been looking for some piece of him.

This exhibition is a journal about becoming a photographer. As the gurus would say, The Summer of Love and my birth as a photographer seemed auspiciously congruent.

Nathan Farb